Public service

Posted 5 April 2011 by
Snohomish County Flag

Snohomish County Flag

Following the 2000 census, the Snohomish County Districting Committee appointed me to serve on the committee to redraw county council boundaries. My name has been submitted to serve on this committee again.

Within thirty days after each federal decennial census data is received from the state redistricting commission or its successor, a five-member districting committee shall be appointed. The county council shall appoint four persons to the committee, two from each major political party from a list of five submitted by the party’s central committee, the four to appoint the fifth who shall be chair. Members of the districting committee shall serve without salary but shall be compensated for reasonable-out-of-pocket expenses. The districting committee shall within thirty days of its appointment, meet and appoint a districting master who shall be qualified by education, training and experience to draw a redistricting plan. If the districting committee is unable to agree upon the appointment of a districting master within thirty days, the county council shall appoint a districting master. (Snohomish County Charter, Section 4.60)

The task is simple and straightforward. In reality, the appointed districting master does the heavy lifting. The committee does a reality check on the work.

One thing different this time is different, the amount of time for the task. While not labor intensive, we went through most of the summer with the process. The charter now requires completion of the whole process by June 1, including adoption by the County Council (Section 4.70).

(Note to whoever is listening. The County Council told me during the interview that the county only received their data today, April 5, 2011. Per the charter, that means they have to May 5 to appoint the committee. That gives the committee until June 5 to appoint a master–but, we have to be finished by June 1. Anyone see a problem with specifying a date certain to be finished—June 1—when the state can take until April 5 to deliver the data?)

This blog post is not about tight timelines, though. It was what everyone on the council most wanted to hear from me, or so it seemed.

There were discussions on how to handle disagreements, choosing the chair, and why I wanted to serve. The biggest smiles, though, came when I said our work 10 years ago was not perfect, but I was proud of what we did. We had to make some decisions, weighing one option over another. We worked to keep communities together, but were not always able to do that consistently. I said that “perfect” would have been to have everyone happy, but that did not happen. Instead, we did not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We made decisions.

There were five smiles across the table from me when I said we did not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The biggest one seemed to come from Hon. John Koster, the only Republican on the council, although all looked happy.

They also smiled when I said that after the public hearing last time, we all wanted to go home. It was not a rough hearing. Most people were there for information. Only one group of unhappy people came from one neighborhood. It takes something out of you to engage actively with the public like that.

(Immediately after the hearing, that evening, the committee did discuss the biggest complaint to see if we could accommodate that group of people. After discussing what we would have to do for one neighborhood, how much more work any change require, and that we would likely annoy another neighborhood, we decided to let the map presented at the hearing stand. We did not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.)

It was interesting that four Democrats and one (conservative) Republican (that ran for Congress in 2010 with a Tea Party emphasis) all appeared to agree on one thing when doing the interview. You cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

This wisdom seems to be missing in the US House of Representatives. This is wisdom that five members of the Snohomish County Council all appeared to understand.

If anyone tells you it is a good thing to turn out incumbents, this is a good example on why experience counts in elected government service.

Now, will the County Council appoint me to the committee again?

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